Quick Facts about Mental Illness – Depression (Mood Disorder)

Many people may feel depressed at different times in response to life’s difficulties. But a mood disorder, most commonly called depression, is more than an occasional feeling of being down. Depression is the effort of managing feelings of severe despair for an extended period of time. People in depression have difficulty understanding that there will be a change or help for their situation.

Depression affects every part of a life including academic activities, physical health, social life, work and health in general. People who are experiencing major depression may have some of the following symptoms:

  • Lack of energy
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Appetite loss, or overeating
  • Missing class, events, appointments
  • Difficulty sleeping, always tired
  • Physical problems such as pain, headaches, digestive problems that don’t go away even with treatment
  • Forgetfulness, inability to concentrate
  • Lack of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness or helplessness
  • Sometimes thoughts of suicide

Major depression is disabling and prevents a person from normal functioning. People may have only one episode in their lifetime, while others may have many episodes. There are various types of depression, some caused by chemical imbalances such as seasonal affective disorder, postpartum depression, and psychotic depression. Sometimes the depression starts out as a minor depression for about two weeks and without help, this could develop into a major depressive disorder.

Depression may be caused by a combination of factors, genetic, biological, environmental and psychological. There is help and treatment for this disorder. There are new medications available to help regulate the chemical imbalances causing the depression. Psychotherapies are also important in treating depression.

Often others in the life of a person are the first to notice if a person is depressed; friends, family, teachers all may notice that there are changes. Reaching out a helping hand to discuss any problem is a good first step. Just knowing that someone recognizes and is concerned enough to say something can be a big help.

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